When Mr Wilkins went into the staff room after the end of afternoon school he found Mr Hind there.
"What's the matter, Wilkins?" asked Mr Hind. "You look so sad."
"You can't look happy after a lesson in Form Three. Take that boy Jennings for example..."
"Oh, yes! Jennings, as usual!"
"What can you do with a boy like that? I'm really tired of him."
"He doesn't mean to be disobedient. But the
harder he tries to be good the worse it is. We can only hope that after
some time he'll learn how to behave," said Mr Hind.
But during that week it was not quite so.
After Jennings had invented his home-made
telephone the hobby spread through the whole school. Binns and Blotwell
organized Form I Home-Made Telephone Line and the boys of Form I spent
all their free time with tobacco tins near their mouths or ears. They
sat in different parts of the common room and spoke to one another.
That was already not very interesting for Jennings. He was thinking of something new.
"It came to me suddenly in the middle of the
history lesson," Jennings said to the boys of Form Three. "I thought we
could make a direct line between Dormitory 6 and Dormitory 4. With the
help of this line we can send messages after the teacher on duty puts
the light out. That's the idea."
It was a good idea, because the window of
Dormitory 4 on the floor of the building was directly above the window
of Dormitory 6. In Dormitory 4 Jennings and Darbishire together with
Venables, Atkinson, Temple and Bromwich slept. Dormitory 6 was larger,
and twelve boys slept there. Among them were Jones and Crosby who were
now listening to Jennings' plan.
"When the teacher on duty puts the 1 light
out," Jennings explained, "I'll lower (one end of the telephone out of
my window to Dormitory 6. A tap of the tobacco tin on the window will
tell you that I'm going to start. And you," he turned to Jones and
Crosby, "will have to take your end of the telephone. The teacher on
duty usually puts out the light in our dormitory and then goes down and
does the same in your dormitory. So when I see that your window is dark,
I'll begin to lower your .end of the telephone."
"Yes, I understand that part of your plan,"
said Crosby, a tall boy with red hair and freckles. "But what messages
are we going to send each other?"
That was a difficult question and Jennings knew
it. "We'll soon think of something to talk about," he said. "For
example, you can... you can ring up and ask what the exact time it is.
And we can say, 'At the third pip it will be eight twenty-seven
"I'll do the pips," said Darbishire.
"What else can we do?" Jennings thought. The
most interesting messages were those, which he and Darbishire had during
their lunar expedition.
Jennings turned to Crosby and said, "I'll tell
you what. Dormitory 4 can be Mars, and we'll pretend that you and Jones
are on Earth."
"Why do we have to pretend that we are on Earth," said Crosby. "We have been down on Earth all our lives."
"Well, you know what I mean. Darbi and I are out in space and we are sending you messages," said Jennings.
"All right," said Jones. "But I don't understand why we have to stay..."
"Don't argue, Crosby. We are on Mars, and you
are down on Earth, and when you hear a tap on your dormitory window -
you'll know that I've lowered the telephone."
"All right," said Crosby. "We'll do what we can, but it will not be our fault if something goes wrong."
"But nothing can be wrong," said Jennings.
* * *
The members of Dormitory 6 took off their clothes very quickly that evening.
"Hurry up into bed, you boys," Crosby said to his friends: "Mr Wilkins is on duty. So let's not make him wait."
"Why not?" they wanted to know.
"Because there will be a message from Mars after Mr Wilkins puts the light out," explained Crosby.
"So don't ask him questions when he comes in to put the light out," advised Jones. "Say 'good night' and that's all."
Mr Wilkins was surprised when he came into
Dormitory 6 and found all the boys in their beds. He was also surprised
when he saw that the boys were waiting for him to put out the light. He
had noticed the same thing in Dormitory 4 which he had visited some
minutes earlier. At the same time Mr Wilkins was very pleased. "The boys
now understood at last that they must behave themselves when the
teacher on duty is L. P. Wilkins," he thought.
He turned off the light.
"Good night, sir. ... Good night," said Crosby at once.
"What do you mean - good night? I haven't gone yet."
"No, but you are going, aren't you, sir?"
"I'll go when I'm ready, and not before," said Mr Wilkins. "I want to be sure that everybody is going to sleep before I go."
He went to the window and for some minutes stood and looked down at the school yard.
"The dormitory is dark now,, and there will be a tap on the window at any moment," thought Jones.
"You don't have to stay here specially for us, sir," he said.
"That's all right. I'm not in a hurry," said Mr Wilkins. He turned from the window and began to walk about the dormitory.
"I think I heard the bell for teachers' supper," said Crosby.
"Really! Your sense of hearing must be wonderful..."
"Oh, yes, sir; it is, sir."
"...if you can hear sounds before they happen.
Now you'll tell me that you can hear..." Mr Wilkins stopped - he heard a
tap on the window behind him. "What was that?" he exclaimed. Dormitory 6
wanted to show that they did not hear anything. "What was what, sir?"
they asked. "Didn't you hear anything now? Not even you Crosby, with
your wonderful sense of hearing?"
Again a tap on the window. "There it is again - a tap," said Mr Wilkins and hurried back to the window.
"Yes, I think it is a tap, sir. The hot tap on the wash-basin often makes a funny noise, sir," said Jones.
"No, no, no. Not a water tap, you silly little boy. Somebody is tapping 'on the window."
Mr Wilkins opened the window and put his head out into the cool evening.
At the last moment Jennings saw that it was not
Crosby's head, but Mr Wilkins', and quickly pulled the string up. So
when Mr Wilkins looked down, then right and left, and then above his
head he certainly did not see anything.
"It's too dark to see anything," he said and shut the window. "I'm going into the yard to see that all is well."